Saturday 25 September saw the virtual give way to the real thing as the Diocesan Pilgrimage set off for England’s National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, in North Norfolk. Led by Bishop Marcus the pilgrims enjoyed the return of this annual event in the Diocesan calendar, after its cancellation in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 situation. In addition to those who travelled independently, coaches arrived from Leeds and Huddersfield and student groups from St John Fisher High School, Harrogate, St Wilfrid’s, Featherstone and Notre Dame Sixth Form College in Leeds also took part.
The Pilgrim Mass in the Chapel of Reconciliation was led by Bishop Marcus and he and the pilgrims were welcomed to the Shrine by its Director, our own Mgr Philip Moger. In what has become a tradition of late, the Bishop had asked the newest priest in the Diocese to preach the homily. On this occasion the task fell to Fr Christopher Butler, who was ordained at the Cathedral in July. Fr Chris reflected on the significance of Our Lady’s trust in God, as evidenced in the Gospels and especially at the Annunciation, and how this was an example for us all to follow in facing the challenges that come our own way. For, as she believed, God is with us. Fr Chris also recalled Mary’s promise to Richeldis de Faverches, who she asked to build a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth nearly a thousand years ago: “All who are in any way distressed or in need, let them seek me in this little house you have made at Walsingham. To all who seek me there shall be given succour.”
At the end of Mass the Pilgrimage Organiser, Fr Ben Griffiths spoke for all when he said how good it was to be able to come to Walsingham in person once again. He also revealed that during the Mass Bishop Marcus had been using a chalice and paten that once belonged to one of his predecessors, Bishop Wheeler, who bequeathed them to the Shrine in his will. Few places meant more to Bishop Wheeler than Walsingham and it was at the Shrine, in the Slipper Chapel, that he said his First Mass following his ordination in March 1940.
After lunch the pilgrims embarked on the Procession into Walsingham village via the Pilgrim Way. Their destination was the Priory Grounds, site of the Holy House and the Priory Church, which were destroyed during the Reformation in 1537. Here Bishop Marcus led the pilgrims in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Vespers and Benediction, and the sun shone down on this late summer’s afternoon. The Bishop expressed his own joy at being back in Walsingham with the Pilgrimage and how our day’s devotions helped us to draw strength as we continue to face the many uncertainties created by the pandemic. He also asked people to pray for him as our Bishop, as these uncertainties affect the Church so greatly and as he discharges his responsibilities towards the care of the Diocese.
Our thanks are due to Fr Griffiths, the organisers in the parishes and schools, and Fr Marc Homsey and the Diocesan Youth Service for bringing it all together and ensuring a joyous return to Walsingham.
More photographs from the Pilgrimage can be viewed by following this link: https://www.patricksicephotography.co.uk/blog/leeds-diocesan